Parents of pupils at King Alfred’s Academy have expressed their relief at the bridleway linking Wantage and Childrey having been resurfaced but say more could still be done to improve safety.

Oxfordshire County Council took to its social media platforms last week to announce the resurfacing, also confirming barriers had additionally been installed to prevent motorised vehicles from using the route.

Paul Barrow, Ridgeway ward district councillor, said: “It’s great to see this resurfacing. The bridleway was in absolutely appalling condition. Even on the Childrey side the route has been widened, with overhanging branches and brushwork cleared.”

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“I spoke with the council and the footpath officer about it many times who said it be repaired for pedestrian use. Everyone is grateful, including ordinary pedestrians not accessing the school.”

The resurfacing comes as a welcome safety enhancement for parents of children who attend King Alfred’s Academy, some of whom described the route last spring as a “pothole ridden dirt track” that use of was “risking our children’s safety”.

Such descriptions were made following county council’s decision to save money by cutting the free bus service to the school and instead make it chargeable, leaving children with the option to pay or instead walk the designated route.

Oxford Mail: The route prior to being resurfaced

The county council had said in response that the route met “the requirements of the national guidelines used to assess safe walking routes to school”.

An appeal from parents forced the council to reinspect the bridleway. Using its Home to School Travel and Transport Policy 2022/23, an independent panel claimed it had found that council officers had initially applied the policy correctly, despite noting safety issues.

Parents, who could not appeal against this decision, criticised this inspection for not considering winter weather conditions and daylight hours. Mr Barrow also labelled it the “wrong decision”.

Oxford Mail: Childrey School path

In light of the resurfacing, Natasha Beames, whose 12-year-old daughter, Annie, is a pupil at King Alfred’s, said: “It now looks a lot tidier. I’m certain this has happened due to our appeal with the school bus and I have a feeling said bus may now be removed as a result.

“I really hope this doesn’t happen, especially for the parents of children who qualify for certain reliefs.

“The route would still benefit from streetlighting. I live in a village just near Childrey and we’ve never had any in the 17 years I’ve been here.”

Julie Howells, whose 14-year-old son also attends King Alfred’s, said: “It’s still pitch black in the winter and there’s no lighting at all.

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“Even when the roads in Challow are flooded and traffic is diverted, it crosses this route which the children use.

“I wonder if it will now come to a choice of walk, cycle or have a parent drive them to school, despite the bus costing over £100 a term. My son is autistic and struggles with change – I doubt this would be taken into consideration.”

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council said: "No decision has been taken on withdrawing seats or stopping the Childrey bus.

"All our school transport services are reviewed regularly and, if changes are proposed, we engage with parents about our plans and mitigations.

"It is unlikely we will be able to provide lighting on the bridleway due to challenges with landowner permission, electricity availability, and light pollution."